Guatemala 2007

To mark the introduction of Pipistrel aircraft to the Latin America (Guatemala), team Pipistrel visited Guatemala. Mr Enrique Molina, our distributor from Guatemala invited us to come and train both flight and maintanence crews.
In March 2007 team Pipistrel traveled Guatemala, one of the most picturesque and culture-rich countries in Latin America. The goal of the 8 day journey was to train flight instructors, pilots and maintenance crew which would later take care of the growing Pipistrel market in Latin America. Our host, Mr Enrique Molina of Pipistrel Latin America welcomed Ivo, Leon and Tine at Guatemala City Airport (La Aurora) after 11 hour flight from Europe. Later that evening, we met with Mr Rodrigo Sanchez, the selected flight instructor. Pipistrel Latin America plans not only do sell the aircraft to interested customers, but they plan to offer the aircraft as a part of a package deal when purchasing a Skypark Community unit. When one buys a house placed at the airport itself, a hangar with a Pipistrel aircraft comes as a part of the package "free of charge". Enrique Molina plans to build several such communities and a section of Ciudad Luz (City of Lights) will be the first.


The next day, Leon and Tine showed the maintenance crew selected by Mr Molina how to correctly unpack and assemble the aircraft after an overseas shipping in a container. This would not be anything special, if it had not taken place on Guatemala's largest and busiest international airport, La Aurora.

Before assembly - Aircraft assembled - Enrique Moline & family with team Pipistrel

While the maintenance crew worked on the aircraft Mr Molina, Mr Sanchez and Ivo worked hand in hand to receive the permit to fly out of La Aurora airport. Needless to say it was not an easy task, but they did it! Soon, a formation of two Sinus NWs lead by one of the most experienced Guatemalan instructor pilots Mr Sanchez took off from La Aurora just behind two Airbus A320 airliners. It was an incredible experience for Mr Sanchez and Ivo in the first Sinus and Mr Molina and Tine following behind. The routing took us south through the well known Canyon de Palin, which is a narrow passage between two VERY high volcanos, and then west along a chain of even higher volcanos to our destination airport, Rethaluleu. It was an uneventful 1 hour flight although the visibility was limited to some 10 km with occasional turbulence.

Rethaluleu Airbase

Rethaluleu was to be our airport where we would conduct all training. It normally serves as the airport of the Southern Command of Guatemalan Airforce, but the officers in charge accepted us in the most friendly way and assisted us with everything we did in the following days. The maintenance crew arrived by car late in the evening and quick glimpse of time revealed they needed 4 hours more then us who arrived in flight. That is 4 hours more for roughly the same routing! This speaks for it self as of how valuable air transportation in Guatemala actually is...

Enrique Molina and Tine during flight training

 

Maintenence team trained by Leon

The training was conducted simultaneously. One Sinus NW was used by Leon and the maintenance crew to teach them everything they need to know about daily handling as well as more thorough service works and sophisticated repairs. The other was available to Tine, Mr Molina and Mr Sanchez for a comprehensive flight training programme. In between, we managed to find time to present the aircraft to other interested parties and press and went flying with them as well. All in all, the training part of the trip went by very successfully and soon both ground and flight "students" were ready for everything that is to lay ahead of them. On the weekend, Pipistrel's distributor for Mexico, Mr Hugo Hererra payed us a visit at Rethaluleu and it was nice to receive feedback about how Pipistrel aircraft behave in the specific Latin America environment and climate.


Mr Hererra (MEX) and his companinon (left) with Mr Molina (GUA)

Mr Herrera had had several years of experience with his personal Virus NW and could not hide his satisfaction... Tine invited him to an advanced training flight which includes unusual attitude recovery techniques and exploring the complete envelope of the aircraft as well as deep stalling the aircraft in all possible airframe configuration and power settings. Mr Herrera was impressed and said "I am even more confident in my aircraft after this flight!".

On the day of team Pipistrel's departure towards Europe, we took both Sinus NW back to La Aurora airport in the middle of Guatemala City. The approach was spectacular and again midst heavy airliners, but the air traffic controllers did a remarkable job coordinating us into the flow of traffic, also thanks to transponders on board both Sinus NWs. It was the end of another very successful trip.

Approach to La Aurora (Guatemala City Intl Airport) is VERY insteresting!

At this point, we would like to thank Mr Enrique Molina and Mr Rodrigo Sanchez, for their unparalleled hospitality and determination, the maintenance crew - Alejandro, Enrique, Victor and Cesar for their support and enthusiasm, the staff of Rethaluleu Airforce Base for splendid collaboration and assistance during our stay, Mr Hugo Herrera for taking his precious time visiting us and everybody else who made our trip possible and pleasurable. We will never forget you! Thank you ever so much!

 
Look close and you will see Mr Molina smiling in the cockpit:)
Flying in Guatemala is great!
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